Apr 4 - 10, 20

Despite manifold challenges posed to the country on the economic front, information technology is still one of the strongest areas that can offer enormous opportunities for creating countless job opportunities and improving economy.

Pakistan's IT and telecom sectors are growing fast and both the sectors look set to expand further in coming years, as majority of countrymen consist of young people and personal income levels are on the rise in rural areas too. Majority of young graduates prefer to excel in the field of IT, a trend proving a pushing factor for the growth of IT and telecom companies in Pakistan.

The educational institutions both in public and private sectors are offering numerous degree programmes as well as courses in different disciplines of information technology.

"Our educational institutions are preparing a crop of talented youth in IT sector to meet the future challenges. The need is to keep them abreast with the changes taking place in global IT markets to use the potential in a better way," said an educationist of IT from a private university.

According to SBP statistics, Pakistan's annual export of software and IT-enabled services is worth over $200 million. But, software developers say actual export earnings are far higher-close to two billion dollars. They say the reason for this massive difference is that Pakistan uses a more restricted definition of export earnings of software and IT-enable services than India and other countries.

Experts believe that the country is facing a number of challenges for its economic revival, therefore, with other initiatives, IT industry needs to be flourished for technological advancement, generating revenues, reducing unemployment and poverty. The government, therefore, must pay especial attention to promote and capitalize on the potential of IT sector.

According to them, it is a healthy sign that IT sector of the country has shown marked improvement and its ranking has gone up to 56th from 73rd last year. However, much more is desired to harness the full potential of this sector.

The experts were of the view that by tapping full potential of IT, Pakistan can also grab a substantial share in the international IT market and enhance its exports as well. The US, Canada, Middle East, Malaysia, UK and other countries have outsourced many functions of their businesses to specialized firms as cost cutting measures and by providing cost-effective services. Pakistan can realize the potential of outsourcing as well.

They said that modern world economies of scale also greatly depend on IT as its usage can enhance the performance improving business processes, cutting costs, and increasing productivity and emphasized that Pakistan should also think on these lines.

According to them, inadequate legal framework has been the main hindrance in proper growth of this sector, beside issues of IT infrastructure and finance. They called upon the government to address these issues on priority to reap full benefits from a growing IT sector.

Elaborating further, experts said over the last two decades IT sector has employed over half a million youngsters in different capacities ranging from software developers, hardware engineers, and this sector has still great potential to assimilate another half a million youngsters immediately with serious efforts of the policymakers.

They stressed upon the government to take measures for enhancing educational enrollment and particularly IT training capacity of the country's people to promote IT culture. A network of IT villages and parks must be created to bring a revolution in the IT field, they asserted.

They further said that Pakistani youth are highly talented and they possess full potential to fetch precious forex through export of software.

Nevertheless, cellular companies have major contribution in promoting the national telecom sector and equal opportunities need to be provided to encourage investment in the information technology and telecom sector in order to create maximum job avenues for the Pakistani youth. The mobile operating companies also need to introduce such low-priced packages which can play a role for character building of the future generation instead of subverting them.

IT professionals are expecting a massive growth in IT industry of Pakistan in the year 2011. They maintained that the internal and external factors have started showing positive signs that will lead in shaping the growth-oriented 2011 for the IT industry.

According to them, the international customers have started investing in balancing, modernization, and replacement of their systems and software. It will help Pakistan IT industry to attain stability in order to grow further in the years to come. Especially, the IT companies like NetSol, working in the areas of finance and leasing would grow at a faster pace during 2001.

It may be noted that State Bank of Pakistan's annual report suggests that the IT sector also posted rapid growth on the back of growing demand for automation in domestic businesses, in the last fiscal year, as seen in previous years. In addition, growing demand for business outsourcing in developing countries led the way for rapid growth of IT exports, such as call centre services and software development, the report adds. It points out that Pakistan's lower cost of labour, land and tariff exemption on IT exports gives the sector an advantage over other competitors.

Recently, a Pakistani software house has developed anti-virus software. Once marketed on large scale and at right prices, it would help in curbing the use of pirated, and thus sub-standard, anti-virus software from other countries.

Despite all such odds, the IT industry today boasts of the presence of about 1,000 local and more than 50 foreign IT companies. However, majority of these companies are operating in major cities including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi.

Those engaged in IT business told Page that more and more IT companies are showing interest in business in Pakistan and this trend is likely to continue ahead.

It is also worth mentioning that NetSol Technologies has successfully completed 15 years in January 2011. NetSol today is the largest IT company in the country with highest export earnings, highest quality standards including CMMI Level5. NetSol has captured 90 percent of leasing and financial market in China and its management is foreseeing lot of achievements in next five years ahead worldwide.